Dreams CAN Happen
What vision do you have for the future of your writing life? Maybe you aren't able to verbalize or even speak that vision to someone else. Maybe you will need to work hard over the next few years to shape your idea into a book proposal then pitch it to the right person at the right publisher at the right time. Or possibly you'll have to invest in yourself and some education through reading some how-to write books and attending some writer's conferences. It's key to have a big dream then plot a strategy to achieve your goals.
You may be wondering how I got on this topic. It came from reading today's issue of Shelf-Awareness. If you don't get this free publication, go to their website and subscribe. This particular issue includes an interview with Richard Nelson Bolles (better known as Dick Bolles) and the 36th edition of What Color Is Your Parachute? 2007 A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career Changers which has 9 million copies in print. This Shelf-Awareness interview is interesting and notice the books Bolles is reading and in particular the book which changed his life--the New Testament.
The story I want to call to your attention about this book isn't in this article. Bolles is now 79 years old and has an incredible life from the various editions of this book. In 1995, the Library of Congress listed What Color Is Your Parachute? as one of 25 Books That Have Shaped Reader's Lives. (Some of the other books are in this link on Bolles website).
I had to look elsewhere to find the story which I remembered about Bolles. He hasn't always been successful. I found the story in a 1999 excellent Fast Company article, "As an ordained Episcopal priest, he was canon pastor of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. But he lost his job in a budget crunch. He then landed an administrative position with the Episcopal Church, meeting with campus ministers at colleges across the country. He discovered that many of these ministers shared his predicament: Their jobs were in peril, and they had no idea what to do. So Bolles did some research and wrote a 168-page guide to help the campus ministers he was supervising find jobs and change careers. Stuck for a title, he remembered his wacky question from two years earlier. He self-published the book in 1970. The first pressrun was 100 copies, which Bolles toted to a meeting in Philadelphia and distributed free of charge. Then something extraordinary began to happen. He started to get orders -- first for 1 or 2 copies, then for 40 or 50. Before long, orders were pouring in -- not from other ministers, but from such institutions as General Electric, the Pentagon, and UCLA."
He wrote his book as an outgrowth of a personal crisis and self-published it. When it took off, Ten Speed Press published Bolles' book. As this article explains, "By 1972, a small publisher in Berkeley, California produced "Parachute" commercially. "Of course, nobody knew what the title meant," Bolles says. "I'd go into bookstores and find it in sports, with books about parachuting." In 1974, a recession rocked the country, and "Parachute"'s sales soared and have remained sky-high ever since. For all of the changes in the world since the days of the Nixon administration, the book's core advice hasn't changed much. Finding a job is all about strategy. Choose the right strategy, and you can snare a good job even in bad times. Choose the wrong strategy, and even roads paved with gold will lead you nowhere."
I'd encourage you to read the rest of the Fast Company article because he talks about rejection and other issues related to the writing life. I admire the fact Bolles had a dream in his heart, plotted the right strategy and got his book published. To his surprise, it has lasted in the marketplace over the years. An excellent idea has this sort of staying quality.